The USA's Desert Southwest is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. From towering rock formations to wide-open vistas, the desert is a sight to behold! In this guidebook, you'll discover the most beautiful hikes in this region.Less
This quintessential desert sandstone arch has become famous around the world. Delicate Arch is now the de facto icon for the state of Utah, thanks to appearing on the state’s license plates. This incredible beauty and the relatively short hike to reach it make Delicate Arch easily the most popular hike in Arches National Park. While you’ll have to contend with the crowds, the effort to see this incredible view in person is undoubtedly worth it!
Two of the most incredible slot canyons in the Desert Southwest—Peek-a-boo and Spooky—can be combined into an otherworldly 3.5-mile loop.
Angels Landing is the world-renowned must-do hike in Zion National Park. This trail routinely graces lists of the “most beautiful” and “most dangerous” hikes around the world, and its fame has made it ultra-popular. The hike is notorious for "the chains" that guard the final overlook— an upward traverse of an exposed ridgeline that drops away sheerly for hundreds of feet. In the steepest parts, steps are cut in the rock, and chains are anchored for support, but a slip can certainly be fatal.
The Wave is one of the most famous photographic destinations in the Desert Southwest! Merely glimpsing the flowing lines of sandstone evokes a sense of mystery and awe at the wonders of nature! Popularized by the wallpaper released with the Windows 7 operating system, seemingly every traveler and outdoor photographer now has to check the Wave off their todo list. But despite the destination's relatively newfound popularity, the hike to reach it isn't manicured or easy.
Druid Arch is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The freestanding arch is notable for its 450-foot height and its dramatic, angular shape.
The experience is unparalleled: wading in a knee-deep stream less than fifty feet wide, with thousand-foot canyon walls soaring overhead. This is the Narrows, one of the most famous slot canyons in the world. Its full length is more than 10 miles, but the final four miles above its mouth in Zion Canyon are some of the narrowest and most dramatic, and this section is easily accessible. The only path through this tight gorge is the riverbed itself, and it flows year round.
Bright Angel is the most popular trail below the rim in Grand Canyon National Park. It is the only trail from the South Rim that has water stops and a campground along the way. Bright Angel Trail is also shadier and generally less exposed to the elements, thus it is the rim-to-river route favored by most, especially during the warmer months.
The South Kaibab Trail is the most visually stunning trail on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Following a ridgeline that juts toward the canyon center, it deals jaw-dropping views the entire way. When compared to Bright Angel Trail, the other major route to the canyon floor, South Kaibab takes a more direct approach and deals a better "bang for your buck" in scenery. It is more exposed to heat and wind, however, and has no water available except for the very beginning and end of the trail.